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Source: "Social Life in the Early Republic,"
by Anne Hollingworth Wharton
Published 1903.


"Mrs. James Murray Mason," the text reads, "wrote in 1827 to invite her sister, Miss Ann Chew of Philadelphia, to several wedding."

A Note identifies the weddings as those of Sarah Maria Mason, her sister-in-law, to Lieutenant Samuel Cooper, and of John Mason, her husband's oldest brother, to Miss Macomb, daughter of General Alexander Macomb, soon to become the general-in-chief of the United States Army.

"..I have absolutely fixed my heart upon your coming. We have resolved to be gay, and our party will be so well selected that we must enjoy ourselves. Ann Mason and Virginia are to be Maria's bridesmaids, and Ann's sister Eliza (who is a very clever girl) and Nanny Lloyd are to be our guests during the merry-making, also the two Masons from Montpelier. 1

"We shall move to the Island on Saturday, and there we shall have ample room to accommodate you and many others. All the men, married and single, (except Mr. Cooper) are to be put into the wing. Maria is to be married on the 4th, and John on the 5th. The 6th and 7th are to be devoted to frolicking. On Sunday we shall go to church, and on Monday, I shall go home with my husband. I wish you would come three or four days beforehand, and here I must give you a hint. Do not bring with you and display or parade of finery. You would be so singular here as to attract observations, perhaps ill-natured ones, and maybe a portion of envy were you to appear elegantly attired - economy is completely the order of the day amongst us.

"We shall all wear the same dresses to Maria's wedding and to John's, and on Friday a nice muslin, and the same on Saturday. Let your dress for the weddings be as simple as you please - the same dress you wore to E. Tucker's wedding will be much handsomer than any you will find here. Virginia will wear a white crepe trimmed with large white satin ruleaus, over a white satin - the same dress which she has worn to all the parties which she has attended this winter. Teaco will wear a plain bobinet trimmed with a lace flounce she has worked for herself. I shall wear my white satin, which is still decent. Nobody here ever makes dress a matter of moment, and your wardrobe will pass unnoticed and unobserved unless you bring anything very extravagant. The prettiest dress you can wear on the grand occasion will be a white book muslin trimmed with a wreath of white flowers, or with three or four rows of plain bobinet quilled double thro' the middle…"

Miss Chew accepted her sister's invitation. The three days' journey from Philadelphia to Washington was made in Mr. Benjamin Chew's family coach, which still stands in the coach house at Cliveden, Germantown.

Another letter to Miss Chew concerning a wedding is quoted in the same book. This letter was written in 1820 by Miss Ann Albertina Van Ness to her friend, Miss Ann Chew in Philadelphia, and it concerns the approaching wedding of Maria Monroe, daughter of the President, to Samuel L. Governor of New York.


The wedding was to take place in the East Room of the White House. Miss Van Ness and Miss Mason, a sister of James Murray Mason, were to be bridesmaids, and they had consulted together regarding the event, which was "the absorbing topic of conversation in the Capital." Miss Van Ness thought it amusing that "little Rias," her old schoolmate, should so soon become Mrs. Governor; but Miss Van Ness was herself soon to marry Arthur Middleton, son of Governor Middleton of South Carolina.

More about the Masons in "Social Life in the Early Republic":


"The court end of Georgetown was Cherry Alley, with narrow, winding streets below Bridge Street." The Keys, Peters, Whannas, Masons, Smiths, Foxalls, Bronaughs, Bealls, Balches, and Forrests all lived in Cherry Alley. Benjamin Stoddard lived in a house on the bluff near Georgetown University. Among his near neighbors were General and Mrs. John Mason. Mrs. Stoddard wrote of Mrs. Mason in 1796:

"She is a charming woman - not so much in the face, as in her whole deportment. Her face, tho' quite pretty enough with charming eyes and fine teeth - plays delightfully and sings really sweetly - her face, as I before began to say, is not as pretty as I expected, but she has sufficient reason to be satisfied with it. I know I should be if I had such a one. Her sister, I imagine, is more of a beauty to please the Ladies than Mrs. Mason is, for Miss Murray looks all amiability and is very pretty too."


Miss Murray, apparently, was Sally Scott Murray who married Governor Edward Lloyd of Wye House, whose sister, Mary Tayloe Lloyd, was the wife of Francis Scott Key. Another of the Murray sisters, Catherine, married the Hon. Richard Rush of Philadelphia, Secretary of the Treasury in the cabinet of John Quincy Adams.

p.122 Mrs. John Mason dined at the White House with Thomas Jefferson, President, Dolly Maddison, Mrs. Madison, Miss Payne, and Mrs. Gallatine.
*1 Virginia Mason was a sister of the bride elect. Ann Mason, Eliza Mason, Nanny Lloyd, and the Masons of Notgelier were cousins.